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In search of a legacy beyond a stained blue dress, President Clinton
is banking heavily on making “peace” in the Middle East.
The latest gambit involves talks at Camp David between Palestine
Authority leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak,
facilitated by Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Let me begin by stating unequivocally that no matter how much hoopla
and fanfare occurs at the conclusion of this process, nothing achieved
at this series of negotiations will lead to a genuine, lasting Middle
I’m going to say some things that are not easy to hear. I’m going to
tell you things you may find unbelievable. I’m even going to make some
statements that are dangerous to make. I’m going to make these points as
an “Arab-American” — someone whose grandparents emigrated to the U.S.
from Lebanon and Syria. My opinions are based on first-hand observations
on the ground in the Middle East, where, I’ll bet I’ve spent more actual
fact-finding time than Albright and Clinton combined.
First of all, we’re told, the fundamental issues under discussion at
Camp David include the future of Jerusalem, the fate of established
Jewish communities in the West Bank and in Gaza, and whether more than 2
million Arabs will be given the right to make claims of land within
Think about what Israel is putting on the line.
Imagine you live in a tiny country — at one point only nine miles
wide — amid a sea of Arab hostility dating back thousands of years.
Your country has survived the last 50 years only through maintaining
military strength. Three times your neighbors have launched major wars
designed to exterminate you and the other citizens of your nation or at
least drive them from the Middle East.
Over the years, your nation has given back large pieces of real
estate conquered in those wars — demonstrating a strong desire to live
in peace with neighbors. Nevertheless, those neighbors have maintained a
warlike attitude and rhetoric toward your country and fomented rebellion
among the Arabs who live within your nation’s borders.
The concessions are never enough.
If you listen to Clinton, Albright, the Arab leaders and most of the
international press reporting on and analyzing these negotiations, you
would believe that the fundamental stumbling block to a lasting Middle
East peace is the issue of displaced Palestinians and their struggle for
That is simply untrue. Prior to 1967, when Israel captured lands on
the West Bank of Jordan River, there was simply no movement for a
Palestinian homeland. That’s because most so-called “Palestinians” lived
in the nation known as Jordan. This whole notion of a Palestinian
homeland was a political invention that provided the Arab states and
self-proclaimed Palestinian leaders like Arafat (who was born in Egypt)
a platform for their continuing “holy war” against Israel.
Yet myths have power. And today big decisions are being made based on
fantasies created for political calculation.
Even many Israeli leaders have been caught up in the mythology. Barak
is one of them — though by no means the worst of the bunch. The fact
remains, however, that Israel will never be able to make enough
concessions to satisfy its neighbors.
Consider also whom Barak is negotiating with. Who is Arafat? Have you
ever asked yourself that simple question? Who elected Arafat to speak
for “his people”? Last week, seven other self-proclaimed and
professional “Palestinian leaders” who were not included in the
delegation to the Camp David peace summit tried to meet with Arafat.
They represent just a few of the many factions in Middle East politics
— factions that ensure that, even if Arafat were sincerely interested
in peaceful coexistence with Israel, no real peace is in the offing.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings. I hate to be a wet blanket. I
hate to rain on everyone’s parade. But truth is truth and lies are lies.
Israel is making a mistake negotiating the fate of its own capital.
It’s making a mistake talking about removing its own people from
permanent communities established in historically Jewish lands. And it’s
making a mistake even entertaining the idea of an autonomous Arab state
— complete with an armed police force — within its narrow borders.
This so-called Mideast peace process is, in reality, a recipe for
war. And, no matter what the outcome of the Camp David talks, the soup’s
about to reach a boil.